Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Faith and Politics 

At Regions of Mind, Geitner Simmons has an interesting post on the religious beliefs and behavior of United States presidents. Although Geitner concludes that most presidents, whatever their personal beliefs, felt that ". . . religion [was] a healthy component of American life," it seems rather clear that the electorate's tolerance for "independence of mind" in "religious sentiments" has diminished.

We may not be too concern as to what religion or denomination a candidate belongs, but he or she should not stray too far from traditional beliefs. And even that might not provide protection against charges of being hostile to religion.


Another shark attack in the panhandle. Once again the victim is from out of state.

Even before this latest incident, Pensacola Beach Blog noted that many shark encounters are the result of ignorance on the part of the victim as to what might be dangerous behavior in the water. PPB suggests that local authorities take more responsibility to adequately warn visitors:
Too many Florida Panhandle communities make no effort whatsoever to forewarn the public about natural hazards which experience shows visitors from distant areas do not fully appreciate. Few beaches along the panhandle have prominent warning signs, make a concerted program to broadcast PSAs on radio and television, rope off a few swimming areas for safer public use, distribute leaflets and PSA ads in local papers and tourist brochures, or even hire enough lifeguards to adequately patrol the beaches.

Here's a modest proposal: The state, counties, and every beach community along the Panhandle that feeds off the tourist trade ought to be required to spend at least $1 annually on beach safety warning signs, lifeguards, and safety equipment for every $100 they spend on tourist promotion. That's just 1%.

If we're going to profit off enticing the public to visit and enjoy the beach, we ought to share our local knowledge about the risks and make at least a modest effort to protect them. It's not only the humane thing to do, it's good business.
Underscoring PPB's point, the Sun-Sentinel reported that "George Burgess, curator of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida, said both attacks might have been triggered by risky behavior."

And if you don't know what behavior might be risky . . . ?

Monday, June 27, 2005

Honesty and Iraq Policy 

Andrew Sullivan discusses problems in the way the administration is handling the war in Iraq:
There's a real danger in low-balling expectations of costs in a war as a way to start it, and then slowly ratcheting up the sacrifice as we go along. The danger is that people will say they were misled and that public support for the war will crumble. Still, that's what they've done and that's where we are.
Sullivan characterizes Vice President Cheney's assertion that the insurgency is in its last throes "unhinged blather."

Sunday, June 26, 2005


What's with the Gainesville Sun and the Lakeland Ledger running the exact same editorial on the flag burning amendment?

No indication in either paper that the editorial came from somewhere else (at least not in the on-line editions).

Friday, June 24, 2005

At Least He Didn't Say "Piled High & Deep" 

From the Carpetbagger Report:
Bush visited the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant this week to deliver a speech on -— you guessed it -— nuclear power. And while the president says odd things fairly frequently, there was one exchange that seemed particularly interesting.
Bush: I appreciate the Secretary of Energy joining me today. He's a good man, he knows a lot about the subject, you'll be pleased to hear. I was teasing him - he taught at MIT, and - do you have a PhD?

Energy Secretary Samual Bodman: Yes.

Bush: Yes, a PhD. Now I want you to pay careful attention to this -— he's the PhD, and I'm the C student, but notice who is the advisor and who is the President.
This sums up so much about Bush's worldview, doesn't it? I realize that the president was probably just going for a cheap laugh at Bodman's expense, but I think the comment was telling.

Intellectuals, as far as Bush is concerned, can only go so far. If they're lucky, they can work really hard, learn a great deal, and ... advise someone who doesn't care much for "book learnin'."

What a great lesson for young people everywhere: slack off, don't study too hard, and do just enough to get by. One day, the brainiac who makes you feel inadequate will be working for you - so long as you come from a wealthy and influential family, and your dad's friends will get you out of every possible jam.
According to Brendan Nyhan, the Prez, very much like a little kid, thinks something is funny no matter how many times it's told.

A Troubling Decision 

I trust this will be the only time I agree, in part at least, with Justice Thomas:
The consequences of today’s decision are not difficult to predict, and promise to be harmful. So-called "urban renewal" programs provide some compensation for the properties they take, but no compensation is possible for the subjective value of these lands to the individuals displaced and the indignity inflicted by uprooting them from their homes. Allowing the government to take property solely for public purposes is bad enough, but extending the concept of public purpose to encompass any economically beneficial goal guarantees that these losses will fall disproportionately on poor communities. Those communities are not only systematically less likely to put their lands to the highest and best social use, but are also the least politically powerful.
Most governments don't like to use eminent domain very often because it is costly and is exactly the type of action likely to stir up the voters. But that doesn't mean that what I would consider injustices will not result.

Florida Editorials on Kelo 

Most Florida newspapers did not have an immediate editorial comment on yesterday's Supreme Court ruling in Kelo v. City of New London, stating that private sector redevelopment can serve a public purpose, and thus governments can use eminent domain to further such projects.

Those Florida papers that ran editorials on the ruling differed in their opinions:
St. Petersburg Times:
The ruling's biggest losers will be people living in working class and poor neighborhoods, since the land in those areas is often not used to its best tax advantage. It is inevitable that large corporations and developers will increasingly try to use the government as their real estate agent. After all, who needs to bid for property on the open market, when the government will confiscate what you want, and at bargain "fair market" prices? The Kelo ruling will undoubtedly prove to be one of the court's worst mistakes in years.
Daytona Beach News-Journal:
Without eminent domain, allowed under Florida law, redevelopment efforts could be thwarted if a single property owner refused to sell. The Supreme Court ruling does not give carte blanche to cities but supports the process when used as part of a carefully formulated plan. The court said that local government officials, not U.S. justices, are best equipped to judge when eminent domain is appropriate. If opponents wish to limit powers of government, the court ruling appears to say, they must argue their cases before state legislatures to change laws.

Even as local government officials cheer the Supreme Court decision, they should also remember that eminent domain is a tool that should be used as a last resort. A government has a responsibility to weigh the harm that could be done to individuals in relation to renewal projects that benefit all by increasing a city's economic viability.
Tampa Tribune:
Not surprisingly, cities and counties hailed the decision as a victory. It will make it easier for them to finish community redevelopment projects slowed by land speculators holding out for big profits or owners who don't want to sell. They'll also be tempted to try to turn stable but shabby neighborhoods into something more.

Elected officials should understand that Wednesday's ruling does not relieve them of their moral duty to treat everyone fairly, especially the politically weak who own property coveted by the politically influential.

Just because an action is constitutional doesn't make it right.
I expect other Florida newspapers will reflect on this important decision over the weekend.

How Did Your Representative Vote? 

Funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was restored by the House of Representatives by a 284 - 140 vote.

How the Florida delegation voted:
YES (to restore the funding)
Corrine Brown (D-FL)
Jim Davis (D-FL)
Mark Foley (R-FL)
Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
Jeff Miller (R-FL)
E. Clay Shaw (R-FL)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)
Robert Wexler (D-FL)

NO (to withhold funding)
Michael Bilirakis (R-FL)
Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL)
Ander Crenshaw (R-FL)
Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
Tom Feeney (R-FL)
Katherine Harris (R-FL)
Ric Keller (R-FL)
Connie Mack (R-FL)
John Mica (R-FL)
Adam Putnam (R-FL)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
Cliff Stearns (R-FL)
Dave Weldon (R-FL)
C.W. Bill Young (R-FL)
Good for Jeff Miller, who represents Florida's 1st Congressional District, a pretty conservative area. Two Democrats did not register votes: Allen Boyd (representing Tallahassee and surrounding counties) and Kendrick Meek (representing portions of Miami-Dade and Broward counties).

Coming to a Website Near You 

The complete works of Charles Darwin online:
Perhaps no one has influenced our knowledge of life as much as Charles Darwin. His theory of evolution by natural selection, now the unifying theory of biology, explained how all of the astonishingly diverse kinds of living things are related. His theory reconciled a host of diverse kinds of evidence such as the succession of fossil forms in the geological record, the geographical distribution of species, recapitulative appearances in embryology, homologous structures, vestigial organs and nesting taxonomic relationships. In further works Darwin demonstrated that the difference between humans and other animals is one of degree not kind. In zoology, taxonomy, botany, palaeontology, philosophy, anthropology, psychology, literature and theology Darwin's writings engendered profound reactions, many of which are still ongoing. Yet even without his evolutionary works, Darwin's place in the history of science would be difficult to match. His brilliantly original work in geology, botany, biogeography, psychology, taxonomy and travel writing would be enough to justify his rank as one of the most original and influential men in the history of science.

By integrating Darwin's books, articles and manuscripts with a full search engine and bibliographical catalogue, the site will be invaluable to students and scholars in the fields of history, history of science, literature, philosophy, the natural sciences and lay readers throughout the world. The project will digitise Darwin's complete publications and private manuscripts (excluding letters which are already being published by the Darwin Correspondence Project) in two forms: searchable text and facsimile image. The publications include forty-two volumes written or edited by Darwin and 246 shorter publications such as articles. The site will include all editions in English of Darwin's work published in his lifetime, and all known journal articles; variant editions/issues will also be provided in full, rather than corrected passages alone. There are plans to also include translations into other languages. Complete bibliographical information will be provided with each text.
The site will be up in October, 2005 (except, maybe, in Kansas) .

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Gators Win! 

Congratulations to the University of Florida baseball team for beating a very good Arizona State team and advancing to the championship series against the Texas Longhorns.

Go Gators!

Do They Really Expect Us to Believe It? 

Knute Berger of Seattle Weekly on unfunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting:
. . . the excuse for these cuts is fiscal discipline--this from a deficit-loving administration and Congress that is draining the treasury in its Iraq quagmire. No wonder the weasel hired to monitor [Bill Moyer's program] Now categorized Chuck Hagel as a "liberal" guest, seeing as how the conservative Republican senator from Nebraska is one of the few of his party to openly challenge the Bush line on Iraq. The war and its funding have become the leverage by which the administration is seeking to settle old scores and consolidate power. Slashing CPB to restore fiscal responsibility is ludicrous; doing it to control public media for propaganda purposes has logic to it.
Remember the Republican creed -- it's not whether they know you're lying, it's whether they can prove it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Quantity vs. Quality 

The Sun-Sentinel's Stephen Goldstein quotes Bruce Nissen, Director of Research, FIU Center for Labor Research and Studies:
Florida is creating jobs at a very rapid pace, and it is this fact that is being celebrated by state government officials and the press. Unfortunately, it remains as true as ever that the quality of those jobs leaves a lot to be desired. We're filling up the state with low-wage jobs. This is a continuation of a trend that has been going on for quite some time. Workers are being left out of most of the wealth being created. From the perspective of middle- or low-income workers, Florida is still one of the worst states to work in. That holds true not only for wages, but also for health care coverage, pension coverage, housing affordability and the like.

Tampa Bay Ferries 

Sticks of Fire reports that a private group is conducting a "feasibility study for a high-speed ferry in the Tampa Bay market." Sticks doubts there is a market that will pay the costs for such a service.

I'm hesitant to admit that I'm old enough to vaguely remember a previous Tampa Bay ferry service. Before the original Sunshine Skyway was built, the Bee Line Ferry ran from south St. Petersburg to Piney Point in Manatee County. I couldn't have been more than about five years old at the time.

Bee Line Ferry (courtesy Florida Photographic Collection) Posted by Hello

The Bee Line Ferry went out of business as soon as the Sunshine Skyway was opened in 1954.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Putting Bush on the Couch 

Florida Politic's Derek Newton discusses the personality traits that lead Governor Bush to ignore expert advice and then refuse to admit he's made a mistake.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Against the Grain 

An interesting article by the Sun-Sentinel's columnist in Cuba, Vanessa Bauza, on refugees who decide to return to Cuba.

Broken Chain 

Note to Peer Review: The Attorney General is a constitutional officer and does not have to, as you put it, take "his orders from the Gov. whether he agrees with them or not."

<UPDATE>: Peer Review responds to my comment above with rather tortured logic -- since the Attorney General represents the Governor in litigation, he therefore "works for JEB!"

The Peer Reviewer, trying to clinch his assertion quotes from the Florida statutes:
[The Attorney General shall]...on the written requisition of the Governor... give an official opinion and legal advice in writing on any question of law relating to the official duties of the requesting officer.
Here's the complete passage(my emphasis):
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, [the Attorney General] shall, on the written requisition of the Governor, a member of the Cabinet, the head of a department in the executive branch of state government, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President of the Senate, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, or the Minority Leader of the Senate, and may, upon the written requisition of a member of the Legislature, other state officer, or officer of a county, municipality, other unit of local government, or political subdivision, give an official opinion and legal advice in writing on any question of law relating to the official duties of the requesting officer.
Seems like Charlie has a lot of bosses.

Now this is not to say that Crist is not toadying up to Gov. Bush or perhaps, given JEB!'s vindictive nature, he is afraid to cross him. Still, the Attorney General does not work for the Governor.

He works for the people of Florida. How well is another question.

Friday, June 17, 2005

A Quiz 

He was wrong on almost every aspect of the Terri Schiavo case, the autopsy confirmed he was wrong, but now Governor Bush wants to open an investigation into "whether her husband took too long to call for help on the night she collapsed in 1990."

Is the Gov being?:
a) Mean-spirited and vindictive
b) Politically opportunistic
c) A schmuck
d) All of the above
No cheating, now.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Compassionate Conservatism 

The Terri Shiavo autopsy report showed half her brain was gone, she was blind and had absolutely no chance for any recovery.

Too bad, says President Bush, I'd have kept her hooked up anyway.

UPDATE: Matt Conigliaro (Abstract Appeal) comments on the autopsy report.

The Great Helmsman? 

Peer Review responded to my questioning his adulation of former North Carolina Jesse Helms, restating that he considered Helms to be ". . . possibly the greatest Senator ever from the state of NC."

Now this may be a trick on the Reviewer's part as a look at the list of North Carolina's Senators doesn't reveal many familiar names. But I suspect that he is serious.

His arguments in favor of Jesse Helms seem to me to be:
1. At least he wasn't a former Klansman, such as was Robert Byrd.
2. Helms' rabid opposition to the Civil Rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s was in the role of "a journalist to which it was his job to report the sentiment of the paper/radio/tv owners and viewers."
3. That Helms' editorials "were not outside the mainstream of North Carolina."
4. North Carolina voters elected and returned Helms to the Senate because of his "moral and incorruptable [sic] nature."
5. In any case, Helms' was only the messenger of the people: "He was a man of the state, and a man of principle. Many people disagreed with his positions, and many disagreed with his beliefs, you are among them. But, they were the positions and beliefs of the people of NC. As a representative of the state, a state that has never voted against you, what other position is there to take?"
Peer Reviewer doesn't address the number one issue, the one that everyone else seem to grasp: by his own account, Jesse Helms apparently has never changed his views on segregation.

It seems to me that the Reviewer wants to have it both ways. He wants to view Helms as a politician with unwavering principles, but then says he was just reflecting what his constituents believed. Helm's less savory stands -- against equal rights for blacks and homosexuals, for instance -- are ascribed to his following the will of his constituencies. Not a good definition of moral leadership. Let's compare Helms with Florida's Leroy Collins who exhibited real moral courage. Moreover, Helms was not a reluctant follower, throughout his career he operated in a meanspirited and malicious manner.

The Reviewer make much about Helm's defense of North Carolina's sovereign rights, but all this talk about his opposing the Civil Rights movement because of fear that the federal government would overstep its bounds, or that these issues were best left to the local people to solve, is a bunch of hooey. Did Helms ever make any local-based suggestion as to how blacks in North Carolina or elsewhere in the South would be integrated into society as equals? Did he ever show compassion for the Civil Rights protesters who were beaten and jailed? Did he ever stand up to the night riders and brutal police that intimidated and injured and even murdered blacks, or did he, through his speeches and writings, aid and abet that terrorism?

No, Jesse Helms was not a member of the Klan, but he misused his position of authority to work to the same end. And now he doesn't seem to have any regrets.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

What's in a Name? 

The naming of a Hollywood park for a sitting commissioner leads the Sun-Sentinel's Michael Mayo to comment on the practice.
Public spaces should be named for the dead, not incumbent politicians, deal-making city managers, or anyone else who's still breathing.

But some South Florida politicians have no sense of shame or humility.

Which explains why, in recent years, we have had christenings such as Mara Giulianti Park in Hollywood, Pat Salerno Drive near the hockey arena in Sunrise and the Howard C. Forman Human Services Campus in Pembroke Pines.

Giulianti is the mayor of Hollywood, Salerno is the city manager of Sunrise and Forman is a former state senator from Pembroke Pines who is now the Broward Clerk of Courts.

No matter how deserving, beloved or instrumental they might think they are, their colleagues should have looked elsewhere before honoring them.

Cemeteries and obituaries would be a good place to start. Memorializing the dead is a time-honored way of keeping legacies and contributions alive, and a nice way to spotlight the unsung and unfortunate.
Amen! This is one of my pet peeves. It's not just a Broward County problem, either. In Miami-Dade County they name high schools for sitting School Board members.

Beside the inherent conflicts involved in the naming process and the lack of historic perspective, we don't know what the honoree will be doing the rest of his or her life. Not saying that any of the above mentioned is going to be running afoul of the law sometime in the future, but it's not like that has never happened before.

Liar, Liar! 

Florida Politics looks at one reason for Republican successes, of late:
Republicans know they are wrong on most issues but they don’t care about being wrong because they don’t campaign on issues anymore. They campaign and win by destroying us.

Specifically, Republicans attack the character of our candidates and politicians. Their first objective in every campaign is to destroy our credibility. They say our candidates are liars, will say anything to get elected or can’t be trusted.


Because if voters believe a Kathy Martinez or a John Kerry or a Buddy MacKay is a liar, they won’t believe them when they tell the truth about issues or anything else.
As they say, read the whole thing.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Another Florida Blog 

A belated welcome to Peer Review, a new Florida blog from Tallahassee that takes a conservative view.

Unfortunately that view includes lauding former North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms as "one of the most effective and morally incorruptable men in United States Senate history, and possibly the greatest Senator ever from North Carolina." Readers are encouraged to purchase Helm's upcoming memoir.

Are you kidding?
Helms, 83, was one of the state's leading voices of segregation as a TV commentator in Raleigh in the 1960s and opposed nearly every civil rights bill while in the Senate. He has never retracted his views on race or said segregation was wrong.

In the book, Helms suggests he believed voluntary racial integration would come about without pressure from the federal government or from civil rights protests that he said sharpened racial antagonisms.
Now I don't know where the Peer Reviewer grew up, or how old he or she might be, but let me tell you, as someone who was around when "white" and "colored" signs were a common sight, that those who opposed the civil rights campaigns did so not because they preferred voluntary integration as a method to achieve a common American goal, but rather because they hated blacks, thought they were inferior and didn't want to share restaurants, hotels or other public accommodations with them. In other words, they wanted to keep them in line.

If you believe that Jesse Helms opposed federal government intervention to protect the lives and rights of black Americans because he feared it would "sharpen racial antagonisms," you are . . . unfortunately ther's no other way to put it . . . a fool.

Yankees Go Home! 

Why would someone relocate to one of America's most historic cities and then seek to tear down a house that dates back to (perhaps) Florida's territorial period?
Two Massachusetts snowbirds want to make some changes in the oldest part of the country's oldest city, St. Augustine, Fla., where the couple bought two adjacent houses this year.

Sandy Harmon and her husband, Bill, want to tear down their smaller, c. 1840 house and construct a garage in its place. On Mar. 30, Harmon filed an application for a certificate of appropriateness, the first step toward demolition.

The city's historic architectural review board will hear the application next week; twice, it has deferred making a decision on the house at 63 Marine St. At the June 16 meeting, the board could delay demolition for one year or approve the certificate.

"If [the board's decision] is an approval, it's an immediate approval," says Kim Del Rance, the city's historic preservation planner. "She could come in that day, get a demolition permit, and tear it down the same day."

Built in the 19th century by the Leonardi family, Italian immigrants who lived in the house until the 1920s, 63 Marine Street was also the home of Tracy L'Engle, a friend of Zora Neale Hurston and cousin of Madeline L'Engle. Its last owner, who lived in the house since 1960, died in January.

Last month, Harmon asked the board to "table" her application until she could submit architectural plans for the new building. Harmon did not return phone calls to Preservation Online.

Spanish settlers founded St. Augustine in 1565 and later built a wall around their colony. The Harmon's two-story, wood house lies within the walled city.

"It's one of the last few remaining all wood frame buildings that could date back to the territorial period, before Florida was even a state," Del Rance says. "We have a lot of fires here, so the fact that it survived this long is also unique. It's an attractive house as well."
The house overlooks the Matanzas River and sits just south of the landmark Bridge of Lions, and just a couple blocks from the oldest surviving house in St. Augustine (1707). It should not be demolished without an extraordinarily compelling reason, and a garage doesn't even come close to that. In fact, there is probably a good case to be made that a garage should not be built on that property even if it was vacant -- the last thing St. Augustine needs is more land devoted to parking and housing automobiles.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Good Ol' Time Music 

We hear a lot of carping about the increasing coarseness of the culture, especially the blatant promotion of sexuality.

Is this really all that new? Take a look at the lyrics to a song, My Sweet Farm Girl, recorded in 1931 by pioneer country singer Clarence Ashley.
My sweet farm girl, she's jolly of my pride
My sweet farm girl, she's jolly of my pride
She knows I know how to keep her satisfied

So early in the morning I cut her grass you bet
So early in the morning I cut her grass you bet
Pull up the hose; I keep her lawn all wet

I close her fire; I shake her ashes down
I close her fire; I shake her ashes down
We eat our breakfast, then we ride on back to town

I keep her garden all free from bugs and weeds
I keep her garden all free from bugs and weeds
I plow her land, and then I sow my seeds

I trim her hedges; I clean out her back yard
I trim her hedges; I clean out her back yard
She loves her daddy because I'm long and hard

Thursday, June 02, 2005

This Can't Be Good 

Fighter pilot training reduced by 60% according to Defense News? Isn't this what is called eating your seed corn?

(via Defense Tech)

Boomers are Wascals, Too 

The Volokh Conspiracy usually presents reasoned arguments for what I believe are misguided positions, but Todd Zywicki can't be bothered with all that. In a correction to someone's misuse of the Lombardi "winning is everything" quote, he concludes,
The fact that Lombardi's words have been twisted over time says more about the generations that succeeded Lombardi than it does about Lombardi.

For what its worth, I have always been intrigued by Maraniss's decision to write a biography of Lombardi after his famous biography of President Clinton. I suspect that the explanation may lie in this discussion--I think Maraniss sees Lombardi as personifying his generation (God, country, family, duty, discipline) in the same way that he sees Clinton as the personification of generation (Baby Boom). So they are really generational studies told through the lens of particular individuals.

The transition between these two generations may also help to explain the change in the interpretation of Lombardi's famous expression over time.
What is it with right-wing libertarians and their obsession with the evil Baby Boomers? We can't help it that they were born too late.

Those Wascally Wadicals 

Scott Gerber, an associate professor at the prestigious Ohio Northern University College of Law, comments on what he calls the "Radicalization of American Legal Education."

His evidence?
Professor Deborah Jones Merritt conducted a survey in the late 1990s that indicated that only 10% of American law professors characterize themselves as conservative to some degree, while Professor James Lingren reported that 80% of legal academics are registered Democrats.
Oh, I see, Democrats = Radicals.

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